Part Two … Herding Cats

ANA vehicles lining up in convoy.

Imagine lining up over 100 vehicles in a line.  Now imagine the drivers just got their driver’s learner permit a few weeks ago.  These drivers speak a different language and you only have a handful of interpreters for several hundred people.  Your mission is to travel with them through a city populated by almost 4 million people and keep

Me in my winter mask.

your convoy together.  Within this city, most of the other drivers are still learning to drive too.  There are very few traffic controls and painted lines are nonexistent.  This would be our logistical challenge and mission today.

We arrived at our destination and the rain was starting to leave up a little bit.  The large parking area was filled

with ANA vehicles.  Their armored fleet included 7-ton trucks, wreckers, ambulances, Humvees, fuel trucks, and LTV pick-up trucks.  Most of these soldiers just graduated from the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC) and were being remissioned.  Their Marine ETTs also spent several weeks teaching them the fundamentals of shooting, combat

techniques, and driving these military vehicles.  Prior to this, some of these soldiers had never ridden in an automobile, let alone driven one.  One of the Marine ETT leaders assured me that his Kandak drivers were ready for the mission and fairly good drivers.  I was still skeptical and had reservations, but kept my opinions to myself.

The original plan was to meet the soldiers at 0300 hrs and depart at 0400 hrs with our train of vehicles.  But the plan didn’t go as planned and this was to be expected.  The ANA officers were late waking up and the ANA Sgt Major had to go wake them.  Then we encountered another radio problem that had to be resolved before departing.  Around 0430 hrs, a sea of halogen

Snowy road conditions.

lights illuminated the area.  Truck engines were grumbling and the soldiers were filling the vehicles.  At approximately 0530 hrs, the first vehicles departed the camp.

It took awhile to get all of the vehicles out the gate and on to the highway.  Our convoy stretched for over 2 miles.  As anticipated, we had the “slinky effect” with our

Traffic starting to back up at accident scene.

convoy too.  Not all of the vehicles could travel at the same speed due to traffic, checkpoints, barriers, etc.  This caused the vehicles to slow down, speed up, and others to come to a standstill, creating the slinky effect.

The real fun began when we entered the city with our procession of trucks.  There are several roundabouts, but the

HEMTT pulling out damaged ANA trucks.

confusion started when one of the ANA vehicles crashed causing the convoy to come to a halt.  By now the sun had just risen and the civilian traffic was trying to get to work.  The crashed vehicle was attached to another one and would have to be towed.  However, the vehicles in front of them had left and they were unsure of the route.  So at a critical

ANA trucks slid off the road.

intersection, the vehicles started going different directions.  Unsure where they were heading, I followed them too in hopes I could get ahead and turn them around.  While we were chasing down our vehicles, we saw another fleet going their own separate way too.  Our ETT leader described it as “chasing a herd of cats”.  I motored around to the front and

got my group of 30 vehicles halted.  The ANA admitted their mistake, but they were being stubborn and wouldn’t follow me as the lead vehicle.  Instead, we would have to follow them through a side street in the town under the pretense they knew where they were going.  Once again at an intersection, several vehicles were left behind

Cows crossing the road in front of convoy.

and unsure of the route.  I couldn’t get around them, so we just sat there and waited until an LTV pickup truck came along the side and squeezed around the stopped vehicles.  This new lead truck was able to put the convoy back on the right road again.

Meanwhile, we watched on our electronic tracking system and monitored the radio traffic while my

Two cars loaded on top of bus.

teammates were “herding their cats”.  It’s a bit humorous now, but it was rather frustrating at the time.  We waited in the market area before proceeding forward with our mission.  The rain/sleet/snow had resumed making the dirt roads soupy and muddy.  Of course the trip wouldn’t be complete without a herd of cattle walking in front of my

Truck loaded on top of bus.

vehicle or seeing commercial buses hauling trucks and cars on their rooftops.  First, I haven’t figured out how they get them up there and then how they stabilize them to keep them from tipping over or rolling the bus.  But it must work, as this is a common sight here.

The convoy was once again aligned and the snow flurries started to pick up.  Less than a mile from our hand-off point, a 7 ton truck that was towing another 7 ton truck lost control going down the hill.  As a result, it caused one of the trucks to roll and damaged the other one.  Fortunately, nobody was injured, except for their pride.  This accident caused the traffic to back up and resulted in several more hours of delay.  This was a good time to hand off the convoy to the Marines who would be responsible for the next segment of the journey.

Those are some big snow flakes.

We went inside the FOB and ate some lunch at their chow hall.  The snow was really pelting down as you can see in the picture of “my Captain” and our ETT leader (AF Major).  Decisions had to be made whether to risk spending the night and get snowed in or continue without rest and drive back to camp.  All of the drivers including me felt that we still had enough energy to continue the mission and return to camp.  On the way back up the hill, the Army was using an armored Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck or (HEMTT is the acronym) to pull the trucks back up on the highway.  We returned to camp without any incident.  I couldn’t wait to lie down in my bed and stretch out after being cramped in the MRAP all day.

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3 Responses

  1. the roofs on those buses have got to be caved in. snow for you bad, good for for the farmers tho. sray safe.

  2. My husband says that he thought his commute into NYC was bad. All I can say is that you are all heroes.

    Stay safe; we are all thinking of you all.

  3. I never forget watching a bus pass on the road to Qalat, with a truck on the roof. In the bed of that truck was a smaller truck. In the bed of the smaller truck was cargo. On top of the cargo were Afghan citizens riding and enjoying the fresh air 50 feet above the ground, oblivious to the danger.

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